Government ministers have started talks to phase out teaching assistants in England to save £4 billion a year, but heads and parents are likely to oppose the move.
There are currently 232,000 teaching assistants, three times the number in 2000. The last government introduced them to ease pressure on teachers and give them more time to prepare lessons and mark work. Phasing teaching assistants out would enable schools to hire more teachers and reduce the DfE’s budget, and would probably take several years.
The think-tank Reform questions the value for money of teaching assistants and claims that their impact on educational outcomes for pupils is ‘negligible’. Its research director Thomas Cawston said: “We found that while they were supposed to help teachers, they were actually being allowed to take classes themselves. Not being prepared or qualified to so those classes, they were not doing a very good job. The money spent on teaching assistants would be far better spent on improving the quality of teachers.”
The individual attention they can give to children is valued by parents and headteachers, and Labour MP Meg Hillier opposes axing them: “I fear this is just another excuse for cutting services with no regard for the real impact on the lives and opportunities of some of the neediest children.”
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